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Netherlands donates 745,000 COVID-19 vaccines bilaterally, expects to donate 20 million COVID-19 vaccines to COVAX by end of 2021

The Netherlands announced that it will donate its stock of 745,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to countries in need that have appealed to the Dutch government. Part of this stock will be made available to Tanzania and Namibia.

The donations of AstraZeneca doses are given bilaterally to countries that have applied to the Dutch government for these vaccines, but other doses ordered by the Netherlands that are no longer needed are sent to COVAX, the global vaccine initiative for fair distribution worldwide.

The Dutch government expects to donate 20 million COVID-19 vaccines to COVAX by the end of 2021. The Netherlands previously donated half a million COVID-19 vaccines to COVAX through Sweden.

Press release – Government of the Netherlands (in Dutch)

News article – NU.nl (in Dutch)

International Planned Parenthood Federation poised to launch legal challenge against UK government’s development assistance budget cuts

The NGO International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) has alerted the UK government that it plans to call for an urgent judicial review of the UK’s government’s decision to stop funding IPPF, arguing that the decision to cut the development assistance budget from providing 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5% without changing the legislation on 0.7% is unlawful.

The UK government had committed to providing IPPF with £21 million (US$28 million) for their ACCESS program to support marginalized groups' access to sexual and reproductive health rights in low-income countries in 2021, but IPPF could potentially lose £72 million (US$96 million) if funding cuts are maintained over the next three years with catastrophic impacts predicted on women and girls. 

Dr. Alvaro Bermejo, Director-General of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, noted that the decision to challenge the cuts was not taken lightly, and has been driven by the injustice of the decision on women and girls the organization serves.

News article - MSN

Sweden guarantees pension fund investments in sustainable development

For the first time, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) has provided a public guarantee of SEK 1.5 billion (US$180 million) for a private bond focusing on health and social development in low- and middle-income countries, through a guarantee instrument, 'Financing For Healthier Lives'.

The guarantee instrument has been developed in collaboration with a Swiss fund manager, 'responsAbility', and Danske Bank. The funds will be lent to companies in low- and middle-income countries through Alecta (a Swedish occupational pension plan manager) and Afa Försäkring (a Swedish insurance company).

Sida’s public guarantee aims to lower the risk on investment so that, in addition to regular official development assistance (ODA), private institutional capital can be mobilized for development projects that support poverty reduction. On the international capital market, the new bond will be classified as a Social Bond, which refers to bonds that fund "new and existing projects with positive social outcomes".

Kalle Hellman, Sida's Deputy Head of Unit for Guarantees and Catalytic Financing for Development, explained that by using approximately SEK50 million (US$6 million) from Sweden's ODA, SEK 1.5 billion (US$180 million) from private funds can be invested in line with the UN's sustainable development goals (SDGs), with a focus on health and social development. This will provide a good exchange for Sweden's currency, said Hellman, and Sweden could "show the market that this type of investment is both possible and interesting". In the long term, Hellman hopes that market players can make direct investments without a guarantee agreement.

Op-ed – Sida (in Swedish)

After assassinationof Haitian president, US will provide support in transition to "inclusive government", starting with COVID-19 vaccine doses

The United States supported a call by Haitian officials for an "inclusive" and "credible" government, in the aftermath of the assassination of the Haitian President. US President Joe Biden sent a delegation to the island to assess the needs of the Haitian people and to discuss the political transition.

“It’s up to the Haitians to come up with the solution to this political process at this point so we rely on them and give them all the support that we can to work conclusively, to work together to form a consensus government," said a US State Department delegation member. "The United States will definitely, along with our international partners, support an inclusive, credible government.” 

At the same time, the Administrator for the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Samatha Power, testified before two Congressional committees about the need to approach development activities carefully in Haiti, noting that the assistance provided to Haiti since the 2010 earthquake had only resulted in "chaos."  Members of Congress pressed Power for assurances that the provision of assistance would be done differently to help ensure better outcomes.

As part of the new assistance, the US delivered the first shipment of 500,000 doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine to Haiti, with a "significant amount" of more vaccine doses to come, according to a White House source.

News report - Voice of America

News report - Reuters

News report - Bloomberg

Development priorities of Slovenian EU presidency will include education, gender equality, food security, health, and water

Ministers from Slovenia, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU from July 1-Dec. 31, 2021, briefed Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on the presidency’s priorities, including its focus on helping EU partner countries recover from the pandemic through focusing on education, gender equality, food security, health, and water. 

Dr. Stanislav Raščan, a State Secretary at the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told MEPs that the Slovenian presidency will continue promoting gender equality through all of the EU’s external actions, while also working to integrate water policy across external policies.

Slovenia’s Education, Science, and Sport Minister, Simona Kustec, told MEPs the presidency’s priorities on research include European partnerships, the European Research Area, international cooperation, and gender equality. 

Press release - European Parliament

Germany announces US$306 million in funding to WHO, 30 million vaccine doses to be shared

During his visit to the World Health Organization's (WHO's) headquarters in Geneva on July 15, 2021, German health minister Jens Spahn committed to contributing €260 million (US$306 million) to the WHO. These funds are part of previously announced pledges worth €2.2 billion (US$2.6 billion) that Germany made to the Access to COVID-19 Tool Accelerator (ACT-A).

The €260 million (US$306 million) will contribute to the development, production, and distribution of COVID-19 test kits, treatments, and vaccines. Germany will also share 30 million vaccine doses with other countries, announced Spahn.

Spahn emphasized that only an international and cooperative approach will successfully end the pandemic. Still, he defended Germany’s rejection of vaccine patent waivers, proposed by India and South Africa to the World Trade Organization. Germany is one of the last key opponents to the waivers after the US and France announced their support for a patent waiver.

News article – Ärzteblatt (in German)

News article – Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German)

Australia's Monash University starts phase 3 clinical trials for inhalable oxytocin with potential to eliminate thousands of maternal deaths in low-income countries

Researchers at Monash University in Melbourne and Johnson & Johnson have jointly developed a form of oxytocin that does not require refrigeration and can be delivered through an inhaler.

Oxytocin is used to stop post-partum hemorrhages, a leading cause of global maternal mortality. This new form of inhalable oxytocin would be easier to distribute and less invasive than the commonly used injectable oxytocin, giving it great potential for maternal health projects in low-income countries.

The project is about to enter phase 3 clinical trials. Commercial production could still be several years away.

News report - ABC News

EU has struggled to maintain solidarity during the pandemic, finds Chatham House report

Researchers from Chatham House, an independent international affairs think tank, concluded in a new report that the EU has struggled to maintain solidarity during the COVID-19 pandemic. They cite the EU and its member states’ use of export bans, border closures, fraught negotiations over a recovery fund, and a slow start to vaccine procurement. 

The report does note that the EU was active on the international stage through its support for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), the global effort to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 medical tools. But it also criticizes the EU for supporting COVAX, ACT-A’s vaccines pillar, while simultaneously cutting bilateral deals with vaccine producers that undermined COVAX’s success. 

Research paper - Chatham House

South Korean politicians discuss methods for improving global health assistance to support partner countries’ global pandemic response

Members of the national assembly of South Korea, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, organized a seminar on South Korea’s global health assistance strategy in the COVID-19 era.

Politicians from both ruling and opposition parties remarked on the necessity to strengthen global cooperation to respond to the global pandemic and for South Korea to strengthen its global partnerships and humanitarian assistance activities to support partner countries’ COVID-19 responses.

The seminar also brought together representatives of academia, the private sector company, and several government ministries, including the ministries of foreign affairs, health, and economy and finance. The Foreign Ministry representative commented on the need to increase strategic partnerships with global health initiatives while better preparing for future pandemics through the expansion of finance and stronger engagement with the Global Disease Eradication Fund (GDEF).

Currently, South Korea’s contributions to global health initiatives, including Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, come from the GDEF which is based on a levy on international flights.

News article – Akom News (in Korean)

UK development assistance budget cut to last for years as parliamentarians vote to lock in cut

The UK government, in a surprise decision, allowed UK Members of Parliament (MPs) to vote on the government’s decision to cut its ODA budget, after many months of the government rejecting the need for a parliamentary vote on the issue. On July 13, 2021, UK parliamentarians voted to accept the government’s proposal to cut the official development assistance (ODA) budget from 0.7% of the country's gross national income to 0.5%.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, who announced the cuts, offered parliamentarians two choices. The first was to override the government's decision and restore the ODA budget to 0.7% of national income by January 2022. The second was to support the government’s proposal to cut the ODA budget and agree that it will only be increased back to 0.7% when the national debt is falling and borrowing is no longer used for day-to-day spending. The government proposal won with a majority of 35 votes, with 25 Conservative MPs rebelling against the vote.

The government has noted that under its new criteria laid out in the parliamentary motion, the ODA budget could be back at 0.7% in a couple of years. However, Conservative rebel MPs argue that in reality, the new criteria would lock the UK out of spending 0.7% in the long term. Three former Prime Ministers from the Conservative Party condemned the decision, with John Major noted that it was a "stamp of little England, not global Britain".

News article - BBC news

News article - The Guardian

Japan prepares to provide 11 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to 15 countries

During a press conference, Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced that Japan will provide 11 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to 15 countries, including Iran and Bangladesh.

AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in Japan will be distributed through the COVAX Facility, the global initiative for fair vaccine distribution. Motegi also announced that Japan will provide an additional 1 million vaccine doses to Indonesia, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

News article – Japan Broadcasting Cooperation (in Japanese)

Philanthropists to provide US$125 million to fill funding gaps to key programs as result of UK government development assistance cuts

A group of philanthropists has committed £94 million (US$125 million) to cover key programs that have faced funding gaps as a result of the UK government’s decision to cut its development assistance budget. The philanthropists include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the ELMA Foundation, and the Open Society Foundation.

The funding will focus on helping projects tackling preventable diseases and providing family planning and sexual health services—all areas that have suffered as a result of the UK government’s decision to reduce its official development assistance (ODA) budget from 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5% in 2021 as a result of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

News article - BBC

Canada announces 18 million additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine for COVAX, donation matching campaign to UNICEF Canada’s vaccination drive

On July 12, 2021, Canadian Minister of International Development Karina Gould, announced that Canada will donate an additional 18 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX). The Minister also announced that Canada will match, dollar for dollar, donations made by Canadians to UNICEF Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination fundraising campaign up to a maximum of CA$10 million (US$8 million). 

The 18 million doses will be administered through a newly-funded COVAX Dose Sharing mechanism. The UNICEF fund matching campaign, “Give a Vax” will run until September 6, 2021. A fully funded matching fund campaign would cover COVID-19 vaccination costs of approximately 4 million people worldwide. Funds raised will enable UNICEF to cover the cost to transport vaccines to countries in need, keep vaccines viable, and train health care workers to administer vaccines, among other costs. This announcement builds on the more than CA$2.5 billion (US$2.0 billion) that Canada has already committed to supporting the global response to COVID-19.

Press release - Global Affairs Canada 

News article - CBC

Japan provides US$150 million in loans to support COVID-19 response in Brazil

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed a US$150 million Private Sector Investment Finance (PSIF) Loan Agreement with Itaú Unibanco S.A., a Brazilian private financial institution, to finance Brazil’s healthcare sector and strengthen the COVID-19 response.

In Brazil, private hospitals accept low-income patients who use the Unified Health System or Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS), a free national universal health insurance system. However, private hospitals have been impacted by the decrease in outpatient and surgeries as a result of COVID-19. Brazil also imports about 50% of Brazil’s medical equipment and 30% of its pharmaceuticals, but supply has tightened due to COVID-19.

This project will support private hospitals facing COVID-19, enabling them to further conduct research and development and accept patients who come from SUS. The loans will also help provide diagnostic clinics with medical equipment and support pharmaceutical companies with production bases in Brazil.

Press release – Japan International Cooperation Agency

UK government to consult on new development strategy

The UK Secretary of State for Foreign, Development and Commonwealth Affairs, Dominic Raab, announced in Parliament that the government will consult with external stakeholders on the creation of its new development strategy.  

Raab, who was speaking to members of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, stated that the strategy is being actively worked on by the government and that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) was engaging with a range of stakeholders including NGOs and international partners. The strategy is intended to guide all UK official development assistance spending.  

When pressed on the exact date when the new development strategy would be released, Raab responded that it will be in a matter of months, not years, but did not give more details.

News article - Devex

UK government supports new, industry-led Impact Investment Taskforce to harness global private finance for pandemic recovery

The UK government has given its support to a new industry-led Impact Investment Taskforce that seeks to expand private finance at the global level to ensure a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Impact investment is an approach through which investors seek both financial rewards and also positive environmental and social impacts from their investments.

The Taskforce, chaired by Nick Hurd—a Conservative Member of Parliament who was formerly the Minister for London—will develop a set of recommendations for Foreign and Development Ministers and the financial sector at the global level, and it will coordinate efforts at the G7, G20, and COP26 (the UN Climate Change Conference). The Taskforce will explore recommendations around the:  

  • Potential global standards for measuring the social and environmental impacts of financial investments; and
  • Type of financial instruments/tools that are best suited to raise capital for socially impactful investments in climate, health, or education.

The Taskforce will meet for the first time in August 2021.

Press release - UK government

Team Europe to support Senegal in building vaccine manufacturing facility for COVID-19 and other diseases

The European Commission (EC) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) signed a grant agreement with Senegalese President Macky Sall to provide support in building a manufacturing facility for vaccines, including for COVID-19, in Senegal.

This project is a part of the new ‘Team Europe’ (EC, EIB, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and EU member states) initiative, which aims to help African nations manufacture vaccines, medicines, and health technologies and reduce their dependence on imports for these products for health and pandemic response and help boost their economies.

Financing and technical assistance will be provided by the EC, the EIB, Germany, France, and Belgium, as well as other non-European partners such as the US and the World Bank Group. 

Press release - European Commission

Press release - European Investment Bank

G20 Panel on Financing Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response calls on G20 to increase funding for global health by US$15.0 billion per year

The G20 High-Level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (HLIP) presented its official report, 'A Global Deal for Our Pandemic Age', to the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors on July 9, 2021. The Panel called the G20 and international community for a public funding increase in global financing of at least US$15.0 billion per year over the next five years.

The report said that the additional US$15.0 billion per year should include US$10.0 billion annually to a Global Health Threats Fund, which should be established to support investments for pandemic preparedness and response, and US$5.0 billion per year to increase funding to existing global health international institutions, including the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as creating dedicated pandemic preparedness concessional financing windows in the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) and Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs).

The Panel also asked to create a new Global Health Threats Board, bringing together finance and health ministers as well as international organizations.

The Panel emphasized the importance of all nations prioritizing and sustaining domestic investments in pandemic preparedness over time.

The G20 will be taking into account the Panel’s recommendations in the lead-up to the G20 Joint Finance and Health Ministers’ Meeting hosted by Italy in October.

Report – G20

Press release G20

Japan holds meeting on global health strategy, emphasizing universal healthcare coverage, post-COVID-19 strategies

On July 9, 2021, Japan held its first 'Global Health Promotion Strategy' meeting. Members from multiple government agencies met to discuss their individual strategies and the future direction of Japan’s global health strategy.

Those included in the meeting were the Japan International Cooperation Agency; Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare; the Ministry of Education; the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry; the Ministry of the Environment; and the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development.

Participants discussed topics such as the research and development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, creating partnerships with countries and various stakeholders, and establishing resilient universal healthcare coverage in other countries.

News article - Japan Broadcasting Corporation (in Japanese)

Press release - Prime Minister’s Office of Japan (in Japanese)

Oxfam releases new international report on food insecurity during COVID-19 pandemic, Oxfam Canada calls for government action

A new Oxfam report, ‘The Hunger Virus Multiplies’, says that as many as eleven people per minute are likely dying of hunger and malnutrition—more than the current global death rate of COVID-19 at around seven people each minute. With half a million people pushed into famine-like conditions since the pandemic started, Oxfam Canada called for more government action to address the crisis.

The report found that 155 million people around the world are now living with crisis levels of food insecurity or worse, which is 20 million more than last year. Oxfam highlighted the impact of economic shock worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, which included mass unemployment and severe disruptions in food production, as well as the worsening climate crisis, as key factors influencing the spike of those facing food insecurity. 

Oxfam Canada called on Canada and other donor countries to immediately and fully fund the UN’s humanitarian appeal to address this crisis. Oxfam Canada also highlighted the urgent need to break vaccine monopolies and have a 'people's vaccine' (as referred to by the People's Vaccine Alliance, a coalition fighting for global vaccine access), as well as build fairer and more sustainable food systems and support social protection programs. 

Report - Oxfam Canada